MANDATE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES AND LAWYERS
The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The mandate holder examines the link between the weakening of safeguards for judges and lawyers and the gravity and frequency of human rights violations. The Special Rapporteur studies topical questions related to this issue and identifies ways to strengthen judicial systems. The Special Rapporteur also receives individual complaints and reports on the conclusions reached and recommendations offered.
The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of his or her mandate.
COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly qualified individual.
The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteurship in 1994 with Resolution 1994/41. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2008 with Resolution 8/6 and in 2011 with Resolution 17/2.
In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, and submits activity reports to the Human Rights Council.
One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge about the situation of the judiciary and the legal system as a whole in order to identify challenges to and best practices for its protection.
The Special Rapporteur undertakes one to three visits per year, to States that have extended an invitation. View the list of previous country visits and the Special Rapporteur’s subsequent reports here.
More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.
Receiving Information & Complaints
The Special Rapporteur receives information and complaints about alleged violations of the independence of judges, lawyers, and prosecutors. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State.
The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.
The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until it includes them in the communications report of the special procedures, which is submitted to the Human Rights Council at every session.
In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that the rights implicated are not violated.
Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, relates to a general pattern of violations, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.
The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person’s rights might be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.
Reports to the Human Rights Council
The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.
SUBMITTING INFORMATION OR COMPLAINTS
Complaints should be submitted to the Special Rapporteur via the online submission form. Communications submitted to the Special Rapporteur should include the following minimum information:
- identity of the alleged victim(s) or community(ies) affected;
- identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation;
- the date, place, time, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation;
- any action taken by State authorities; and
- the identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential.
The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:
Special Rapporteur on the independence of lawyers and judges
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10
- Email: SRindependenceJL@ohchr.org
- Fax: +41 22 917 90 06